The holidays signal a time of stuffing yourself silly with delicious food and fond memories. You’ll binge-watch your favorite movies, put out a decadent spread, deck the halls and trim the tree. The holidays bring you together with family, but old traditions sometimes need shaking up.
The spirit of the season means giving back to others. Make care packages and take in a furry friend, along with other good deeds this season — here are 12 ways to spread goodwill.
The season has bestowed you with special powers as the “Holiday Baking Fairy.” Your job — to bake extra goodies to surprise hardworking loved ones and folks within your community, by dropping them off at your local fire station, homeless shelter or nursing home. Combine with song and dance for sweet, or hilarious, entertainment.
Foster a Furry Friend
Animal shelters fill up and get chilly during the winter, but you can lend a hand for the holidays by fostering a furry friend in your home temporarily. No one will get bored or feel unloved as your new animal friend bonds with your loved ones. You can also donate blankets, toys, food and cash to shelters.
Adopt a Family in Need
You can go the route of adopting a family through the Salvation Army Adopt-a-Family program or go through another regional or local program like the Touch a Heart Foundation, which helps South Florida families in need. Nonprofits aside, one of the simplest and biggest things you can do is invite someone over for the holidays to eat with you.
Give out Hot Chocolate to the Neighborhood
Forget door-to-door caroling and make a batch of hot cocoa. Set up a station in the neighborhood or walk around to each home.
Donate Lightly Used Goods to Charity
The holidays also mean hustling to clean out clutter, or at least hide it, before the family arrives. Do your local charities a solid by donating lightly used goods you no longer use. Some places will even pick up bulky furniture.
Donate to Food Pantries
Food pantries don’t judge when folks in need come to them for pantry staples. All families want to prepare a delicious meal for the holidays, but food pantries tend to run low on goods as these seasons come and go — walk-ins spike, and donations decrease, especially after the holidays in January and February. Gather up canned goods and hand over monetary contributions to your local food pantry.
Knit a Blanket
Become a blanketeer, and use your crafting skills to knit a blanket for Project Linus, which has delivered more than 7 million blankets since 1995. This organization gives your blankets to children who experience serious trauma, illness or physical need across the country.
Ship a Care Package to Heroes
Support heroes fighting overseas by making and shipping a care package. Customize it with wish-list requests such as neck gaiters, knit hats, scarves, socks, toiletries and books. Different nonprofits — such as Operation Gratitude and Wounded Warriors — regularly ship out care packages to soldiers overseas and at home, but local organizations may also ship specific items, such as a local press shipping books.
Start a Toy Drive for Children
Start a toy drive with Toys for Tots, which delivers new toys to kids in need during Christmas. Local charities also do similar drives you can contribute to if you’d rather collect next year. Try a neighborhood church or fire station. During your annual holiday or office party, ask people to bring in an unwrapped toy for the collection.
As winter approaches, may charitable organizations run short on warm and gently used coats for people in need. Go through your closet and collect donated coats from friends, family and co-workers to deliver to your local homeless shelter, church, Goodwill or Salvation Army. Many churches that have food pantries also house clothing facilities for those in need.
Gift Your Time
Shelters, food pantries and many nonprofit organizations are in heavier need during the holidays. Shelters usually host a holiday meal and need people to help serve or stay overnight. Food pantries and clinics see an increasing number of needy people visiting for assistance, and extra volunteers help the process run more smoothly and quickly.
You can volunteer for an hour or two or overnight — giving whatever time you can will help others get through the holidays in better health and happiness.
Teach a Skill
Are you a whiz with a resume or Microsoft Office? Can you ballroom dance with the best of them? Do you teach voice lessons and organize your church choir? Giving back to your community and those in need is as simple as passing on knowledge that helps someone else get a job, feel more confident about their body or distracts them from hard times with a little fun.
Giving back during the holidays spreads goodwill and cheer to all. You’ll come away with deeper and richer memories of the season, and it’s a wonderful time to share these acts of giving back with little ones to teach them the value of lending a hand with a compassionate heart.